Tag Archives: US Army

Space Force: It’s back and it’s still a dumb idea

I cannot believe they’re talking yet again about forming another military branch, this one based in outer space.

On second thought, yes I can believe it.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is pitching the goofy idea one more time. He says we need a “space force” to protect us against pirates who’ll attack us from beyond our atmosphere.

Oh, please help me. Give me strength.

How many times must we say this? The United States already has a military branch — several of them, actually — committed to defending us from outer space attack.

The U.S. Air Force has a Space Command led by a four-star general. The U.S. Navy also has dedicated qualified personnel to monitor the great beyond from ships at sea as well as at naval air stations positioned around the world. The U.S. Army has long deployed units committed to high-tech air defenses.

What in the world are talking about here?

The proposed U.S. Space Force is redundant. It is duplicative of tasks already being done.

The Space Force idea does have its fans. Elon Musk, the Tesla and SpaceX guru, is all in. “It’s cool,” he said, to have a Space Force, noting that they scoffed in the 1940s when the Air Force was split off from the Army.

Donald Trump wants to create this force as a national security matter. He signed a directive calling for additional study of the issue.

Whatever. A Space Force is still a nutty notion.

We do not need to form yet another military service branch. I’m tellin’ ya, the military we have on duty at this time — the most potent fighting force in human history — is quite capable of defending us against space pirates.

Central Command not consulted? Well, what’s new?

I guess none of us should be surprised to hear this bit of news from near the very top of the U.S. military chain of command.

Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commanding officer of the nation’s Central Command — which has authority over deployment of personnel in the Middle East — told Congress that Donald Trump didn’t consult with him before announcing his decision to withdraw our forces from Syria.

The president, though, did declare the Islamic State to be “defeated badly,” which was his seat-of-the-pants justification for leaving Syria and turning the fight over to . . . Syrian resistance forces.

The non-surprise comes in the form of those idiotic 2016 presidential campaign boasts that Trump made. He told us he was the smartest man in human history, that he knew the “best words,” had the “best mind,” would surround himself with the “best people” and, here’s my favorite, how he knows “more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me.”

Trump knows all

The tragedy of it is that the Republican presidential candidate persuaded just enough voters living in just the right states to score an Electoral College victory to be elected the 45th president of the United States.

So he now gets to govern without consulting the “best people” who ought to include Gen. Votel, a combat Army veteran with vast knowledge of the Islamic State and the threat it still poses in the region and around the world.

According to Time.com: When Trump announced his decision to pullout on Dec. 19, it sent shock waves through Washington and the rest of the world. “Our boys, our young women, our men, they’re all coming back and they’re coming back now. We won.” 

But did we? ISIS has claimed responsibility for terror attacks after the announcement, suggesting to many of us that the Sunni Muslim terror outfit isn’t “defeated.”

However, Donald Trump is wired to be all-knowing all the time, or so he would have us believe.

Except that I don’t believe a single word that flies out of his mouth.

I call this ‘devotion to duty’

This picture says it all for me. It is not a statue. It is a living, breathing U.S. Army soldier. He is standing guard at the Tomb of the Unknown at Arlington National Cemetery.

Yep, it is snowing. It is bitterly cold. But there he is, along with the rest of the garrison assigned to stand watch over one of our nation’s most sacred memorials.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott posted this picture on Facebook. I share it here to join the governor in saluting these men — indeed, the rest of our military force. “God bless our military,” Gov. Abbott said.

One more quick point: These men are assigned to perform this intensely precise duty in addition to their regular duties while stationed with the 3rd Army Infantry Regiment at Fort Myer, Va. They do not perform this duty exclusively. Their infantry unit is required to maintain its fitness for combat duty in the event that they would get such an order from the commander in chief.

They stand their watch at the Tomb of the Unknown — no matter what!

The clown show is getting even more bizarre

That astonishing sideshow that commenced today in the Cabinet Room of the White House left me fairly speechless.

Why? Because there is too much on which to comment. Donald Trump’s non-stop riff covering the government shutdown, The Wall, the military, James Mattis’ resignation/firing, and God knows what else has left many of us out here grasping for something on which to analyze.

I’ll go with two items that jumped out at me.

Trump said, “I think I would have been a good general, but who knows?” Well, Mr. President, you had your chance back in the 1960s. While many of us were answering the call to duty during the Vietnam War, young Donald Trump received (cough, cough!) medical deferments associated with, um, bone spurs.

I had flat feet in 1968, which I always thought was a disqualifier. The U.S. Army induction center in Portland, Ore., didn’t accept that idea. So . . .  off I went.

The future president got five deferments. The New York Times recently revealed that the circumstances of those deferments were at best questionable, that the doctor who “diagnosed” the bone spurs allegedly did so as a favor to young Donald’s father, Fred. Thus, I won’t buy into his goofy notion about how good a general he would have been.

Then he said this about James Mattis, the now-former secretary of defense. “What did I get out of” his service? “Not much,” Trump said.

OK. Let’s see. The oath that Mattis took was to protect the country, to serve the country, to defend the Constitution. He did not swear an oath to serve the president. He did not declare his adherence to the individual who nominated him to run the Pentagon.

Then the president said he “essentially” fired the defense secretary.

Right there is yet another demonstration from Donald Trump that this individual does not understand the true meaning of public service. He has shown one more time how patently unfit he is to serve as commander in chief of the finest military apparatus the world has ever seen.

Welcome to America . . . just bring your gas mask

You’re a refugee fleeing repression in a Latin American country. You trek to the southern border of the Land of Opportunity. You and your kids, maybe with your elderly parents, are greeted by U.S. Army soldiers and Marines.

Then you get gassed. Those troops deployed by the commander in chief are under orders to prevent everyone from entering the United States. One way to keep you out is to gas you.

This is no way, none at all, to manage the border. It is no way to prevent illegal immigration. The refugees who are seeking safe harbor from the tyrants who run their countries back “home” deserve something far better, more kind than what they’re receiving.

I have tasted tear gas. It got my snootful twice while training at Fort Lewis, Wash., in the summer and fall of 1968 in the U.S. Army. It really and truly sucks, man. The second douse came while I was low-crawling under barbed wire. Our sergeants popped a nausea agent. Yep . . . I puked!

This is how we intend to “greet” those who seek protection from those who would do them harm. Wow! I never would have thought I would see this happening in our country.

Appalling!

Army assessment dampens Trump view of ‘caravan’

I’m sure you remember that when he was campaigning for president in 2016, Donald Trump declared he knows “more about ISIS than the generals, believe me.”

It has turned out that he doesn’t. Nor does he know more about that so-called “caravan” of tough guys, criminals and “Middle Easterners” heading toward our southern border than the generals.

Trump has tried to inject fear and panic among Americans in advance of next Tuesday’s midterm election. He has called that “caravan” an invasion force intent on breaching our southern border. So he’s dispatched as many as 15,000 troops to the border to take charge of matters, to secure it against the invading hordes.

The U.S. Army, though, assesses it a bit differently. It said the refugees fleeing northward remain a good distance away and projects that only a small percentage of the “caravan” will reach our border. The Army assessment presumes that there will be about five U.S. troops for every refugee who manages to make it to the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Washington Post says it cannot verify the Army assessment independently, but reports that military officials the newspaper contacted are vouching for its veracity.

Trump peddles fear like few other modern-day politicians. I’ll concede that he’s pretty good at it. He has that base of supporters who continue to believe the lies that fly out of the president’s mouth. That’s all that matters to him. He talks to them only. The rest of us? Forget about it!

As the Post reports: Seizing on immigration as his main campaign theme ahead of Tuesday’s midterm elections, Trump has depicted the caravans — at least four have formed, though they remain hundreds of miles away — as a grave danger to U.S. national security, claiming they are composed of “unknown Middle Easterners,” hardened criminals and “very tough fighters.” He also insists the number of migrants heading north is much larger than estimates put forward by U.S. and Mexican government officials.

The military assessment does not support any of those claims.

And we are to believe the opinion of a man — the president — who admits he doesn’t read briefing papers or doesn’t feel the need to absorb national security briefings?

I don’t think so.

1968: The year that changed many lives

If you live long enough you get to go through many seminal moments in your life. I’ve been walking on this Earth for 68-plus years and I have had my share of them.

My marriage to a girl who appeared before me like a vision. The birth of my children. The birth of my granddaughter. Flying over an erupting volcano.

But 1968 produced another one, too, just as it did for many of us in my generation. That was the year I was inducted into the U.S. Army. It occurred 50 years to this day.

I actually can remember much of that day in some detail. It’s one of those events that burns into your memory.

Mom took me to the Army entrance station in downtown Portland, Ore. She bid me so long. I went in, went through a routine physical exam, then took the oath. I made the step forward and was informed by the swearing-in sergeant that we “all had been inducted into the Army.” I would learn later that the Marine Corps also was accepting conscripts; hey, we were at war.

We piled onto buses and rode off in the dark toward Fort Lewis, Wash., where I would spend the next nine weeks learning how to be a soldier.

It was a two-year hitch. I finished basic training in October, then flew directly to Richmond, Va., and then rode a bus to Fort Eustis, Va., where I would train for another 16 weeks learning how to keep OV-1 Mohawk airplanes in the air.

Then it was off to Vietnam and back to Fort Lewis to finish my hitch.

Why mention this? Well, I feel at times in today’s era that not enough young Americans get a chance to experience these kinds life-changing events. I came out of that experience a better person, more grounded and certainly more committed to getting an education.

I won’t advocate for a return to mandatory military conscription. Perhaps some form of public service, though, might do a lot of young folks good. The government created the Peace Corps in 1961 to provide young Americans with a chance to make a positive impact around the world. The Peace Corps is still in existence, but one hardly ever hears of it, unless some young person gets into some form of trouble.

I feel fortunate to have come of age when I did. I feel blessed as well that I survived that most-turbulent time in our nation’s history.

None of us can rewrite our past any more than we can rewrite history. Suffice to say that 1968 was one hell of a year for many Americans. We endured violence in the streets, the murders of two iconic political/religious/civil rights icons and a war that tore at our national soul.

We survived and we are better for having lived through it.

Military taking a big bite out of its own hand

Donald Trump must really mean it when he implies that America should become an immigrant-unfriendly place.

The New York Times has published a story that tells of how the U.S. Army is ordering an increasing number of legal immigrants out of the military service. Why? According to one of them — an immigrant from China, with a business degree, a wife and a small child — they are deemed “unsuitable.”

As the Times noted in its story, the Army is booting out an increasing number of immigrants even though it cannot meet its recruitment goals for 2018.

The program, adopted during the Bush 43 administration, is designed to allow legal immigrants a fast track to citizenship. The Trump administration seems to see little value in the program.

What a disgraceful display of un-American treatment of men and women who come here to this country on their volition and want to serve in our military.

The irony is so rich you can taste it, given that the commander in chief sought to avoid military service during the Vietnam War by obtaining a series of student and medical deferments.

Take a look at the NY Times story here.

I am reminded of a time when this country granted automatic citizenship to immigrants who enlisted in the armed forces. How do I know that? My own grandfather, George Filipu, became an instantaneous American by enlisting in the Army in 1918. He wanted to fight in World War I. But then the war ended in November of that year. He didn’t get into the fight — but he retained his U.S. citizenship.

That’s what service and commitment to our country is all about.

The young man who might now be deported to China — after swearing an oath to “protect and defend the U.S. Constitution — now might be punished in his home country simply by enlisting in a foreign military organization.

That’s how you “put America first”? I don’t think so.

The pilot deserved higher honor than he got

Flash back 50 years ago and you find yourself recalling one of the most tumultuous years in U.S. history: 1968.

We’ll soon mark a couple of assassinations that tore the nation’s heart apart. We’ve already noted the 50 years since a one-time enemy launched an offensive against our troops in Vietnam, changing the nation’s fundamental attitude about whether the war could be won on the battlefield. At the end of this year we will mark a mission to the moon that gave us a glimmer of hope after all that heartache.

Fifty years ago today, a U.S. Army pilot — the late Hugh Thompson — landed his helicopter at My Lai, South Vietnam, and told fellow soldiers that he would kill them all if they continued to massacre innocent men, women and children. His crew chief and door gunner were standing by to carry out the order — if Thompson were to deliver it. The soldiers backed off and spared the nation from even more tragedy.

The My Lai massacre became one of the flashpoints of the Vietnam War. Army Lt. William Calley, who commanded the men who took part in the massacre, stood trial and served prison time for his role in that horrific event.

What has gone largely unremembered is the heroism that Thompson exhibited when he confronted the men who had gunned down hundreds of Vietnamese victims.

As Thompson told the Los Angeles Times before his death in 2006: “I thank God to this day that everybody did stay cool and nobody opened up. … It was time to stop it, and I figured, at that point, that was the only way the madness, or whatever you want to call it, could be stopped.”

The Army sought to hide the massacre. It sought to keep it out of public view. Then the famed journalist Seymour Hersh uncovered it and reported it worldwide.

Thompson eventually received the Soldier’s Medal for “heroism not involving actual conflict with an enemy.”

He also deserved a nation’s thanks and gratitude for stopping evil when he spotted it from on high.

Today’s students channeling their grandparents

I am hearing some talk in recent days about the nature of the student-led protests that are developing across the nation in reaction to the spasm of gun violence in our public schools.

It has something to do with an earlier era of protest that got enough people’s attention to hasten the end of a costly and divisive war.

Many observers equate the post-Parkland, Fla., school massacre response to what transpired in the 1960s and early 1970s, when thousands of Americans protested the Vietnam War.

They hope this protest has the staying power of that earlier time, when Grandma and Grandpa were much younger and took on the power structure that continued sending young Americans to die on battlefields halfway around the world.

Young Americans are dying today, too. The difference is that they are dying in classrooms here at home.

I wasn’t among the young folks who marched in the street, carrying a sign, chanting slogans … that kind of thing. I wasn’t wired that way. Indeed, I took part for a time in that war, heading off to Vietnam in the spring of 1969 to serve in the Army.

Upon my return and later my separation from the Army in the summer of 1970, I was filled with plenty of doubt about that war and whether its mission was worth continuing. The Vietnam War did awaken my political awareness, although I put it to use in ways that didn’t require me to stand on street corners yelling my displeasure at U.S. foreign policy.

The Parkland slaughter does seem to have awakened a new generation as well. Students plan to “March For Our Lives” on March 24. In Amarillo — a community not really known as a political hotbed for protest — that event will begin at Ellwood Park, where students and their elders will gather to march to the Potter County Courthouse.

Should this protest shred the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees the right of Americans to “keep and bear arms”? No. Not in the least. Surely there must be some legislative remedy that preserves the amendment, but which makes it more difficult for nut cases to obtain firearms.

The young people who are on the “front lines” of this struggle are seeking to have their voices heard. Decades ago, another generation of young people were thrust onto the front lines to fight another war. Their voices were heard eventually. They brought change then. Their descendants can bring it once more.